OSCODA – Little free libraries that dot the state are made to help feed hungry minds with free books. Oscoda’s new little free pantry is designed to feed those in the community who may not have enough to feed their bellies.
Amanda Bergeron, who works as the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA), in a partnership with the Oscoda Rotary Club and Oscoda United Methodist Church, recently worked to install the region’s first “little free pantry.”
The pantry itself rests on a pole on church property, and is maintained with non-perishable goods by church staff. The motto of the program is “Take what you need, and leave what you can.”
Bergeron, who is NEMCSA’s Weatherization & Food Services Coordinator/Lead Housing Resource Specialist and Homeless & Prevention Services said the pantry was built by her husband, David Gergeron, and six-year-old son, Hudson.
“It’s just like a free little library,” Amanda Bergeron said. “It going to be used for a couple different purposes, like food security.”
Bergeron hopes that anyone who needs a helping hand with a meal, will utilize the pantry, so they don’t have to go hungry. She also said organizers are urging the public to donate to the cause as well by contacting her or by literally putting items into the pantry.
“We are also requesting people to donate whatever they can donate,” she said. “Right now we’re asking for peanut butter, canned goods, mac and cheese, non-perishable items, for a future we are thinking we can make it more customizable for the public.”
One idea Bergeron said could be done is to stock the pantry with clothing items, like gloves, for children who may need those clothing items in the winter months.
Bergeron said the idea for the pantry was presented to her by a coworker, Frances Ommani, who works as NEMCSA’s outreach coordinator.
“She was requesting for NEMCSA to be the lead on it to have these free little pantries,” she said. “My family volunteered to establish the one in Oscoda.”
Bergeron also lives in Oscoda, and initially they were looking to install the pantry at the Rotory Club’s pocket park on Dwight Street, but through the group they decided it would be better suited at the Oscoda United Methodist Church. From there it morphed into a join project between NEMCSA, the church and Rotary Club.
“We started working on the pantry project in early spring of these year. I have been trying to get the word out a little bit through word of mouth, though Facebook, so I’m hoping at this story in the newspaper will get the word out about it,” Bergeron said.
As far as the little free pantry’s shelves getting bare, the church is ready to step in with extra food to keep it stocked so people can get a meal. She also said that there need not be fear of someone doing something bad to the pantry. She said it is monitored daily by the church and is near the Oscoda Township Police Department’s parking lot and is monitored with a security camera.
Bergeron said although the pantry is the first of its kind registered in northern Michigan, the idea is to have more and more free pantries in the 11-county NEMCSA region.
She even said there would most likely be more pantries in Iosco County.
“I think there could be a huge added benefit to our area,” she said. “There are food insecurities in rural Michigan and other areas. I’m really excited to be a part of this project and bring it to our community I hope it serves I think if people are looking to give back they can do that.”
Bergeron said anyone who would like more information about the pantry, or to contribute, can contact her by calling 989-358-4712 or emailing her at BergeronA@nemcsa.org.